Briton rounds off his year by finishing first again after sprinting clear of New Zealander Jake Robertson
Mo Farah was warned beforehand by his competitors that he would be pushed hard at the Simplyhealth Great North Run. He certainly was but, as tends to be the case, the decorated Briton rose to the occasion and forced himself to a fourth consecutive victory in the event through willpower as much as athletic ability.
Last year it was America’s Dathan Ritzenhein who stretched the multi Olympic and world champion, only to be outkicked in the closing stages, but on this occasion Jake Robertson was the man who stretched the home favourite yet suffered exactly the same fate.
The New Zealander had led for the closing miles, his face a picture of calm while the effort was etched across Farah’s features behind and, as they passed the sign which says ‘400m to go’, the metaphorical bell, Robertson made one last attempt to break free.
That was the moment at which Farah engaged top gear and broke away in trademark fashion to crown another memorable year with yet another victory, this time in 60:06.
Robertson came home in 60:12 and, though he was denied victory there was still to be a happy ending for him. He proposed to his long-term partner Magdalyne Masai after the race – and the Kenyan who finished fourth in the women’s race said yes.
Olympic marathon silver medallist Feyisa Lilesa had attempted to take charge of matters when he reacted to a burst of pace from Farah during the seventh mile, but the Ethiopian had to settle for third place in 61:32 with Zane Robertson, twin brother of Jake, 10 seconds behind.
Dewi Griffiths of Swansea Harriers, fresh from winning the Cardiff 10km one week previously, produced a big personal best of 62:53 for an impressive seventh place.
“I went through 10k in the leading group but it was always going to be hard to stick with them,” said Griffiths. “It felt like it was a tough day out there and many of the guys said the same so I will take some comfort from that.”
As has been the case for so long, however, much of the focus on was on the British athlete who finished first.
“Jake pushed the pace on and he almost got rid of me,” said Farah, who confirmed he will be running the London Marathon in April as he switches his focus from the track to the roads.
“I wasn’t going to tell him that but he almost got rid of me with three miles to go. It was an amazing race, I just had to dig deep and I was sore at the end.
“It’s not easy to win it four times in a row but it’s nice to make history. Now I’m just looking forward to taking a break and chilling out.”
The men’s wheelchair race also came down to a two-way battle for victory between Britain’s Simon Lawson and Canada’s multiple global medallist Brent Lakatos.
It was neck and neck until 200m to go, where Lakatos mistook timing sensors across the road for the finish line and eased up. Lawson did not and, by the time Lakatos had realised his error, it was too late.
Lawson has had three second-place finishes at this event and was delighted to come out on top in 44:22, with Lakatos five seconds behind and his fellow Canadian Josh Cassidy third in 44:57.
» A report on the women’s race, which Mary Keitany won for the third time, can be found here, while the September 14 edition of AW magazine will include in-depth reports, pictures and results